“We’re still discovering some of her properties: shape-shifter, beautiful cipher, charmed, glamorous California girl bouncing back and forth between coasts, shifting valances between art, poetry, installation, and painting,” began Tony Oursler last night at Cipriani Wall Street, where The Kitchen held their spring gala honoring Kim Gordon and Dan Graham.
He was introducing Gordon, of course, whom he first met in 1977 at the California Institute of the Arts, “with a little prompting,” at a Dan Graham lecture of all things, via their mutual friend Mike Kelley. Oursler, whose multimedia work often centers on facial recognition and deconstruction, said in a long, vaguely experimental and weirdly beautiful speech, “[Gordon] is one of a select group of media people whose face and identify is somehow amplified by the camera, whereas most of us mere mortals turn ugly and globby in front of the lens. Kim seems to become more radiant, more Kim through the lens—often darkly.”
Some other highlights from his speech:
“My ears are still bleeding from the first time I saw Kim perform.”
“I want to fill in some of the things she left out of her autobiography, about the debauchery of the Sonic Youth years. The incredible backstage parties that lasted for days on end, fueled by orgies of conceptual artists, nerdy poets, theoretical architects, and experimental filmmakers. But I guess that’s a story that best remains untold.”
“I remember Kim saying that all rock stars want to be artists and all artists want to be rock stars, but somehow, Kim was able to be both.”
“I imagine Kim’s screams depicting a pre-drone state, between cold reality and delusion, mournful and powerful. The dissident tones etching a prescribed kind of sonic netherworld. She is the punk oracle.”
“As an SWM, I know what I don’t know, and I know that I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, or to be underrepresented, not counted. I can’t even begin to fathom what Kim has meant to future Kims, the alienated kid hiding away in the bedroom, listening to music, drawing, Youtubing, trying to form an identity against all cultural odds, and then happening upon Kim Gordon, and having doors open. I’ve had students tell me over the years that Kim was the turning point in the life and putting them on the creative path. For few artists have this kind of potential, to become meta.”
The event was, in a way, a celebration of punk, pre-Giuliani New York—where Larry Gagosian was still just a hustler, and “no one was there to make money off art, and no one thought they could,” as Oursler noted. It seemed as though just about every major artist and cultural figure from that time period was sitting in the audience—Richard Prince, Rodney Graham, J Mascis, Aïda Ruilova, Raymond Pettibon (who designed Sonic Youth’s Goo album cover), Wade Guyton, Joan Jonas, Rainer Judd, David Zwirner, Lisa Spellman (owner of 303 Gallery, which will present an exhibition of Gordon’s work next month), Louise Lawler, etc. etc.
“I just want to thank The Kitchen for providing the context for many different kinds of performances without having to label it as a performance or dance or music,” said Gordon in her own, improvised, speech. “When I first moved to New York, I went to The Kitchen about two or three times a week—it was just as important as going to Tier 3, or the Mudd Cub. And Dan was one of the first people I knew, and had a lot in common with. We’re both drawn to weird taste—really, really, really weird taste. But taste is something that is to be kind of defied and trampled on, and what better place than The Kitchen to celebrate that.”
Gordon and Graham had selected entertainment to accompany dinner—heroes and friends The Feelies, Stephen Malkmus (sans The Jicks), and The Raincoats, the latter of which wore pants that read “Unfuck The World” on the side. Before they performed their last song of the night, they entreated the crowd: “Please give money to The Kitchen, and please make lots of art.”